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Umaisha and Omalicha at Abuja Writers’ Hot Seat

By Tunji Ajibade
Last month’s Abuja Writers’ Forum in its characteristic manner was another  triple moment for the celebration of poetry, painting and music. In this graphic report, Tunji Ajibade captures the soul and depth of that eventful meeting:

Writers’ brotherhood never had a single event so loaded. That was what happened at the November edition of the Guest Writer Session organized by Abuja Writers’ Forum (AWF). It was a literary outing packed with interesting activities. Writers from various backgrounds had all come out to interact with newspaper editor and short story writer Sumaila Umaisha as well as poetry performer, Ify Omalicha, but they had more than they bargained for. In the end, every participant walked out of the Pen and Pages, Abuja venue, excited.

Comments such as “I have never been part of a literary event like this,” with the expression of desires to be more involved in literary activities, were part of what the event provoked. As some of the writers present said, the nation’s literature never had it so good with the more than two-year consistent running of the  literary event that featured mini Art Exhibition,  musical and poetry  performances.

An opening glee by Omalicha was what the Compere, Mike Ekuno, brought to the stage after the  introductory remarks. That had the title: The green pasture.  The fervour associated with some religious sects and visits to them by miracle seekers this three-piece work that had a man in-between two ladies. A man’s world, she called the name of the three-in-one piece.

Imagine a man’s eyes set on two ladies at the same time and you got the essence of Millicent’s work. Two ladies were dying to have a man, he stayed in between enjoying the show like an unbending Iroko tree at a time wind and flood terrorize every other plant around.  The artist said, “We women can’t do without men around us”; under  normal circumstances, that is. Yet, see the way the man treats the ladies, “It’s an irony,” of  some sort, she concluded about ‘A man’s world.’

Many in the audience pointed out that they liked her work, they were beautiful. Ladies especially saluted the punches the artist threw at men in the course of her explanation, ev
en though the title of her most interesting work would give a different impression. Then came the musical duo. Laolu, who said “I am part time singer and he is a full time,” referring to his fellow, Valerino, would join him to give life music performance.

The big masquerade was what the MC called the first Guest Writer to climb the stage. And so he was. Umaisha, literary editor of the Kaduna-based New Nigerian, is a short story writer, poet and an award winning literary journalist whose stories and poems have appeared in journals, anthologies and online publications.

He read ‘Militants’ and ‘After the riots’ from his debut collection of short stories, Hoodlums, a book that has attracted attention in literary circles for its focus on the violence perpetrated in the country in the name of religion, politics and culture. The Guest Writer would be taken on by his audience for his stories that not only painted pictures  of  violence in its diverse forms but also indicted everyone, including the reader. He would explain that he belonged to the realist school of thought which posited that a writer should use his medium to bring issues across ‘the way they are.’ But all of that were yet for the Question and Answer Time.

Omalicha’s second coming was a full blown performance. She might as well have been performing on the stage of the patriarch of  Theater Arts department  in the country – The University of Ibadan. This post-graduate Theatre Arts student of the University might have put up for her lecturer,  the seamless, entertaining performance of the poem titled, ‘Untitled,’ in an examination and she would have passed. There was that professional, well-rehearsed touch to every move, every line she performed alongside Hannah.

Untitled was about apartheid South Africa and the plight of the poor black under the oppressive regime in place at one stage in the life of the people from that part. That was a poem with no  identification going by its name; but the first few lines of the poetic rendition showed it for what it was – a poetic exposition of poverty, sufferings, oppression, lack, denials, and values that had been devalued.


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